14 June 2012

Make new friends

Today, I took my daughter to her Kindergarten meet-up.

It's actually a brilliant move on CPS' part.

We go in to meet the teacher, the other kids.

Kind of an orientation before the real day this fall.

Great, right?

She was nervous.

I'd been telling her for a couple weeks about all the friends she'd make.

All the fun they'd have.

But she was nervous.

"But where will you be, Mama?"

Right next to you.

"How long do we have to stay?"

Not too long. But it's going to be fun, so who knows!

We started walking to the school.

And I realized...

that I was nervous.

For both of us.

Yes, these are formative days for her.

And yes, it'll take a minute for her to adjust. (It was literally a minute.)

And I know she'll be fine.

But me?

We walked into the building,

that smelled like every elementary school in the world: chalk, wood desks and xerox paper.

Here were all these (mostly) women: most of whom have stayed at home with their kids for five years.

All the way up to this point.

And there I was, also a veteran.

Of three weeks.

Standing in the chaos of this classroom.

Kids running around, looking at the class pet fish.

At the class pet crab (?).

And it somehow felt...like my first day of school.

Or my first day on a new planet.

What will we have in common?

I made awkward conversation with other awkward parents.

There were those who knew each other from their kids having been here for preschool.

And they chatted like they'd known each other for years.

I'm not used to being left out.

But there it was.

I kept trying to act normal.

Talking to my daughter.

Ooh-ing and aah-ing about the fish.

"Yes, they have a fish, honey!"

But my daughter was already a part of this scene.

Already starting the courting dance of kids getting to know one another.

("Mommy, Sophie's sitting next to me!")

And I was the wallflower.

For probably the first time since my first day of kindergarten.

I was on the sidelines.

We left the kids with their teacher and their fish, and headed to the cafeteria.

About 100 people, gathered at picnic-style tables, in a fluorescent room.

I sat with someone I knew through a mutual friend.

But she (traitor) was talking mostly to the people she'd met through preschool.

"Oh, the good old preschool days!" Laugh, laugh. Ha, ha.

So I sat, studying the school papers that were handed to us as we walked in.

When suddenly, a woman across the picnic table from me, said, "Hi, I'm Ruth."


As in Old Testament?

"I'm __________."

Small talk, small talk.

What class is your daughter in?

Where do you live?

Do you have any other kids?

Do you work?

"No," I said, fumbling for an easy explanation.

"I was in advertising, until recently.

Now I'm home freelancing."

That should do it.

Quick and painless.

Ruth: "What agency?"

Come again?

"Uh, _____________," I replied, a bit confused, but hopeful.

She smiled.

"I'm a freelancer, too. I'm a designer."

Ding ding ding!

Then we talked about everything.

The industry.

The possibility of actually freelancing while being home with a kid.

The projects we've worked on.

Then, she turned to a guy next to her and said, "This is my husband, Leonard.

He's a planner."

I'd hit the kindergarten-mom-trying-to-make-friends jackpot.

And he was British.

(Why are all planners British?)

I started to relax.

And talking to Ruth and Leonard, actually got the ball rolling.

I met Jennifer (strange, clingy, gossipy mom of twins)

I met Wendy (absolutely stunning mom to Sophie, a mix of Spanish and German.)

I was beginning to feel like the prom queen.

We exchanged email addresses and talked of playdates.

To get the kids together.

To get them comfortable.

To get us all comfortable.

And as I walked home,

with my little girl sing-songing about how much fun she had,

when she'd been so full of anxiety about this day,

I let out a deep breath.

It was a success all around.

She was so happy.

And somehow, I know,

that at least for now,

she's okay.

She's resilient.

And adaptable.

And good at making friends.

And today I helped show her

that life is about meeting new people.

Experiencing new things.

Being brave and kind and friendly.

But the thing I hadn't expected

was to come away from this,

her "first day" of school,

having learned something myself.

I've been doing the same thing, in the same circles, for close to 20 years.

And I've become set in my ways, set with my group of work friends and college friends.

I was so worried and focused on my daughter being able to adjust and make new friends,

that I lost sight of the fact that this is a skill

I need to brush up on, too.

Going from being around people you've known forever, and people you work with and see more than your family,

to being around complete strangers,

who are now part of your child's future...

And therefore yours...

is a strange feeling.

I really do have a lot to learn.

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